Finding Treasure in Scotland, by Christina Neuwirth

Find a penny, pick it up! All day long you‘ll have a sneaking suspicion that it might be a culturally or archaeologically significant object! After an exciting hike up and down many staircases in the National Museum, we reach a conference room where we‘re introduced to the basics of the Treasure Trove, who work to preserve significant objects from Scotland‘s past.

How do you know if you‘ve found something of cultural or archaeological siginificance? Of the 2,000 objects brought into the museum every year, only a few hundred are real finds. People‘s imaginations ofen run wild and they find William Wallace’s sword at every dig of the spade, even if they turn out to be old doorknobs and metal hinges. The museum is working to educate the general public about how to identify a find, but the real education lies in familiarity with the material: People are less likely to bring in a big shiny rock and claim it‘s solid silver if they know what silver looks like.

Next, we gain insight into how items can be looked at and what questions art historians and archaeologists pose when they date an object, and we even get to examine some objects ourselves. What I thought was a knife sharpener made of clay was actually, gasp, fragments of a cast bronze age sword! A mold for a wax with a faint tetris etching turned out to be the end of a crudely made Christian cross. A really heavy tongue compressor? No, it‘s a Viking silver ingot, a solid metal slab that was used as currency.

If you get the chance to go, do! I certainly walked away with the strong urge to buy a metal detector and go out exploring.


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